YWCA of Seattle | King County | Snohomish County Provides Free Mammogram Screening for LBTQ Community
Breast cancer risk and incidence of late breast cancer detection is believed to be higher among lesbians, bisexual women and transgendered individuals (LBTQ) because of fear of discrimination by their health care providers. But YWCA of Seattle | King County | Snohomish County aims to change that.
Instead of waiting for women to come to them, YWCA goes out in the community, providing free mobile mammogram screenings to the medically underserved and uninsured, like the LBTQ women at the Wild Rose Tavern in Seattle this month.
To deliver the mobile screenings, YWCA of Seattle | King County | Snohomish County has partnered with the Swedish Breast Care Express, a 64-foot coach equipped with state-of-the-art digital mammography screening equipment and space to perform the breast and cervical exams. The free breast health screenings are funded by the Washington Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program.
Through its Women’s Health Outreach program, YWCA has conducted more than 30 free mobile health screenings in the greater Seattle area each year, with a focus on the underserved African-American, Spanish- and Russian-speaking, homeless and LBTQ communities. YWCA provides peer outreach, education, no-cost mammograms and additional health services to a diverse community of women with limited incomes, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The program has helped nearly 650 women receive breast and cervical health services in 2011 alone.
“We believe bringing culturally competent health screenings to the community will lower the threshold and the LBTQ community will be more inclined to seek our services,” says Ingrid Berkhout, program manager for Women’s Health Outreach at the YWCA of Seattle | King County | Snohomish County.
“Not everybody feels at ease to come out to their health care providers as fear of discrimination is real,” she explained. “Some health care providers don’t perform pap smears because the perception is if you aren’t having heterosexual sex than you don’t need it. Coming out to your provider is a big deal.”
Berkhout also noted that some providers have even walked out on women patients who revealed that they are gay, bisexual, or transgender. “Because of this they don’t always receive or seek the preventive health services they need. The people who come to our mobile events feel so fortunate they have found free health screenings in an inviting, familiar environment amongst their peers.”
“Making this service and preventive health information available is important for queer women’s health,” says volunteer Sarah Jay. Women who are LBTQ have higher risks of breast and cervical cancers than heterosexual women. They’re also more likely to have lower incomes and be uninsured or under-insured, making them less likely to be screened.
In addition, YWCA LBTQHealth organizes the annual Rainbow Health Fair to coincide with Pride festivities in June. This health fair provides LBTQ women with free health screenings by their peers -- LBTQ health providers. Services offered include diabetes and cholesterol screenings, bone density tests and mammograms, as well as nutrition information, sexual and mental health counseling, massage, acupuncture and other health services.
“We want to keep people healthy!” says Ingrid Berkhout “This is our mission.”
For more information about YWCA Seattle - King - Snohomish County and its health programs, visit https://www.ywcaworks.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=457#health.